We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

16143347I picked up this book because of its hype this book has gleaned from the book community, and most importantly, YA is my jam; I started this book with high expectations.

It’s been nearly four days since I finish this book, but I still haven’t been able to make up my mind when it comes to deciding whether I like this book or not.
Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely enjoyed reading this book. This is such a page-turner with a huge, surprising twist in the end. That being said though, when it comes down to the issue of liking it or not, I still don’t know which side I am on. I’m somewhere in the middle.

I gave this book 3 ~ 3.5 out of 5 stars.
As I previously mentioned, I enjoyed reading this; this book made me keep turning pages.
There’s not much of a plot going, it’s just narratives of the ‘Liars’ summers on the island where their grandfather has a great influence on. The Sinclair family is a well-off, distinguished family and they have almost everything and they have the luxury of spending summertime on the island every year.

What I found interesting is the relationship between the ‘Liars,’ Cady, Johnny, Mirren and Gat. They get along really well on the island, yet their relationship never goes beyond the summer; they lose in touch at some time or other and let it fall through the cracks until next summer. I wonder why, but they do and I assume that’s exactly what makes their summers on the island really special.

Another aspect that I found interesting is the crumbling relationship between their mothers. On the surface level, they seem to get along all right, but deep down they’re constantly against each other and currying favor with their father to secure the better family possessions.
The underlying enmity slowly elevates the matters to the point that comes to a head and that eventually drives the ‘Liars’ into taking the matters into their own hands – which leads to the shocking, devastating consequence.

A huge twist in Part 5 literally took me by surprise; It made me hold my breath and cry, ‘Oh my gosh,” I didn’t see it coming at all.

The writing is one of the strongest points in this book, I gather. As the story is basically narrated from Cady’s perspective, everything feels kind of hazy and untrustworthy; I constantly wondered whether to take in everything she says as is or not. I absolutely enjoyed the platonic, beautiful slow-burned love between Cady and Gat, but on the other part of me constantly doubted if it was what was actually happening. I personally think that’s what heightens the sense of suspense and makes this book gripping.

I enjoyed Cady’s narration as well – it’s very lyrical at times and the prose is very beautiful. I also enjoyed reading the short stories presumably written by Cady inserted here and there in the story.
It indirectly insinuates the consequences of her/their actions and reflects her emotions.
It was really well-done.

The ending literally wrecked me. I definitely saw some hope in it, but it was, at the same time, very sad and haunting. Cady has to live on dragging the luggage of what she had done in the ‘Summer Fifteen,’ and how she herself recognizes it just broke me. It was heart-wrenching, yet also beautiful. I lost my words after closing the book.

As I said earlier, I still don’t know whether I adore this book or not. But I definitely have a soft spot for this kind of book.
I can vouch that this is a great summer read, such a page-turner. I recommend you picking this up if you haven’t already.

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto (Translated by Megan Backs)

124533This book is one of my all-time favorites, I first read this book in my second year at junior college.
An American teacher suggested that I should definitely read this and lent it to me.
“Give it back to me when you’re through this book. Take your time,” he said.

How many years have passed since then? I lost count.
That said, this book had always had a special place in my heart.

It was a cold winter day in 2015, I was hit by a strong urge to possess this book after all these years, it came totally out of the blue.
It may have been a nostalgic part of me wanting to dwell on the fond memories associated with this book, be that as it may, I got this book from Amazon and I just adore it.

Since I have never read any of her work before, I have no frame of reference with regards to which version of her work – the Japanese one and the English one – is better than the other, but I instantly fell in love with the atmospheric, beautiful writing.

The story revolves around young two man and woman who are somehow strongly connected by ‘death.’ Needless to say, the gloomy ambiance is running through the entire book; it’s slightly morbid, dark yet it’s incredibly delicate and beautiful.

It is quite surprising that even the translated version of the book -even with the rather clear, straightforward filter of the English language – pulls off conveying the fragile, delicate ambiance what the original edition of the book might carry (again, it’s my guess as I have never read the original one) throughout the entire story.
The descriptions of darkness, silence, raindrops, the moon and the fragility are beautifully delineated through the delicate writing. The writing is really descriptive yet calm and delicate, it is absolutely gorgeous.
I personally think the atmosphere and the writing are what draw us readers into the story.

The themes of the story is also interesting. The idea of ‘death’ always sits in the center of the story, but I found some other aspects – transvestism and transsexualism – rather daring considering the time when it was first published. In this day and age when we would never go even one day without hearing the talk of ‘gender,’ such themes that can be found in this book may not have much of an impact. That being said though, decades ago, how many authors actually dared to drop them in their work and put it out for the world to read, I wonder?
Personally, I’m intrigued to know.

I adore the two main characters, Mikage and Yuichi; they both are shattered and plunged into a state of despair after losing their loved ones, they both severely suffer from the loss, they wallow in their share of loneliness and sadness. Still, they both have their own feet back on the ground slowly and steadily as the story progresses.
It’s poignant and the tone is forlorn indeed, but the ending is quite hopeful and refreshing. It put a smile on my face.

Overall, it’s a stunning, delightful read. I absolutely loved it.

■Moonlight Shadow

This book comes with a short novella titled, “Moonlight Shadow.”
This is another beautiful, impressive story on the theme of ‘death,’ it’s pretty short yet the story line is quite solid and the writing is, again, splendid and descriptive.

I think ‘death’ is the recurring theme in this ‘Kitchen’ bundle; in this novella, ‘Moonlight Shadow,’ two main characters, Satsuki and Hiiragi struggle to bounce back from the loss of their loved ones.
The inner process of Satsuki is so heart-wrenching and poignant. She hits the lowest point having lost her boyfriend and has yet to come to terms with it. Her anguish, grief, and pain she suffers from the loss seem too much to overcome, but she tries to get by each day believing the day will break and the morning will come  – her struggles can be felt so close to me, it pained my heart.

What really pains Satsuki is not only the fact that she’ll never see her lover again, but she didn’t get to say proper good-bye to him.
With an eccentric but whimsical character Urara, the story takes an interesting twist.

The dialogue in the latter part that Satsuki had with Hiiragi made me cry. It beautifully tells how much Satsuki has been suffering and how much Hiiragi cares about her. There’s no love-triangle or messy business involved, of course, yet Hiiragi’s concerns over Satsuki and his willingness to overcome the pains together with Satsuki touched me.

And the ending, Ah, THE ENDING. It was stunningly beautiful. It was just amazing and incredibly emotional. My tears flooded as I read the scene, what a tear-jerker. It was just gorgeous.

Personally, I liked ‘Moonlight Shadow’ better. It may be because I was more emotionally attached to ‘Moonlight Shadow’ than ‘Kitchen,’ yet I can vouch that the both stories are just stunning. They are gems. I highly recommend picking this up.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

the-great-gatsby

As a non-native, this book had always been like an insurmountable mountain to me – a masterpiece decked with beautiful yet somewhat elusive words.

The very first chapter was the most difficult; like a tough nut to crack, the smooth flow of words felt really elusive and abstract, it took me some time to get the hang of his writing style and decipher what the author tried to say.

That said, I must admit that I literally fell in love with the writing. It’s stunningly beautiful and mellifluous, I even thought it was like impressionist’s paintings at times where the story was told not explicitly by solid outlines but by numerous numbers of brushwork. The story was woven and contoured so subtly yet it’s got quite a strong ‘draw’ that captivates the reader. I can’t really put my finger on exactly what it is, but I was enthralled by his outstandingly beautiful writing.

His writing is also very descriptive. The description of almost-out-of-order-parties was just amazing; I could easily visualize how flamboyant and bustling they must have been.

Story-wise, I had neither read this book nor watched the movie so I dove right into this book without knowing anything. As I previously mentioned, the toughest was the very introduction in Chapter 1, but once I powered through it, I was captivated by this enchanting yet poignant story.

Honestly, I didn’t anticipate this turn of events; I sometimes felt it was kind of hazy and ambiguous in a good way, but as I came to understand Gatsby’s personality and his anguish as well as the flame for Daisy that he keeps burning in his mind, I found myself completely reeled in the story and wanting his love for Daisy to come to fruition.

I was really surprised to find how strongly invested I actually was in Gatsby’s character; I wasn’t expecting to be emotionally attached to any of the characters because none of the characters felt realistic nor grounded. They all seemed frivolous and were living in the moment not caring much about where they were heading nor the consequences of their actions.
With the sad outcome that Gatsby faced, I, for the first time, felt the pang of sympathy toward him and I also felt sorry for Nick. The ensuing funeral scenes and the aftermath tugged at my heartstrings.

How close Gatsby had become to Nick.
What big of an influence Gatsby had had on Nick. 

The last several chapters are just stunning. It’s so atmospheric, poignant yet beautiful like quiet, undulating waves on the surface of water.

I wouldn’t boast that I got to grasp the gist of the story.

Not quite, I’m afraid.

Nevertheless, this story left me enthralled and mesmerized, and I pledge to come back to this book at some point in my life. This is a masterpiece.

And I really adore this book.

A Lady of High Regard by Tracie Peterson

360019■Synopsis (Excerpt from Goodreads)

Born into affluence, Mia Stanley is a winsome socialite with a knack for matchmaking. She’s also a writer for Godey’s Lady’s Book magazine, much to the disdain of her family and their society friends. A proper young lady of her social standing isn’t meant to labor in such a way, but Mia has always had a way with words…

When her writing draws her into the world of downtrodden seamen’s wives on Philadelphia’s docks, Mia uncovers a scheme that puts her in harm’s way. But her heart ends up on the line as well…. Has her determination to always make a match driven away the one man whose esteem she covets?

 


I haven’t been able to process my feelings toward this book just yet. I don’t particularly adore this book but it’s not like I HATE it, either. I’m kind of being in the middle, if you like.

This is a typical romance story which sets somewhere in the 19th Century. The protagonist, Mia is born to a wealthy family,  she is a ‘Lady of High Regard. She loves acting as a matchmaker and tries to find his best friend, Garrett a suitable wife.

My first impression on this character setting was:
‘Well, that sounds pretty much like Emma by Jane Austen.’ 
I have never read the book. I have only watched the movie adaptation, but I thought Mia’s character setting is quite similar to the one of Emma from the first moment when I found out what kind of woman Mia is.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t relate to Mia as much. I know she is an amiable, compassionate woman yet she also comes across a feisty, headstrong young woman and her naivety and imprudence really put me off.
I do think it’s really nice and commendable of her to try to save seamen’s wives out of their plight despite knowing she is well out of bounds. Nevertheless, I was almost sick of her repeatedly (again, REPEATEDLY) making stupid, reckless, impetuous decisions.
One minute she pledges to her father that she would seek wise counsel and the next minute she acts recklessly in the heat of passion, blindly believing that she can only solve the problem.

As for the story where two old best friends growing up as a brother and a sister finally recognizes their feelings toward each other, I find it interesting yet a bit predictable and old. It was good that it’s got some suspenseful twists to it, but the pacing -as far as the romance goes – was incredibly slow and a bit irritating.
The number of interruptions really threw me off; whenever either of the main two characters tries to confess their love, the interruption comes. I could tolerate it if it were once or twice, but this many???  It does serve to make it more suspenseful and I did want to know how it would play out, but I was a bit frustrated and wanted to cry, “Come on, you two, forget the propriety and blurt it out already!”
On that point, I think it was successful.

Generally the characters didn’t leave much big of an impact on me, neither do the story line.
Oh, but I love Mia’s father a lot. He is an epitome of words of wisdom. I particularly liked the lesson he gives his reckless daughter Mia, such as:

I fear that if you do not learn moderation and learn to temper your responses, however, that you’ll find yourself sorely misused, if not dead.

Meanwhile she’ll stew and fret over what she’s said and done. It will serve her right.

Those remarks made me laugh out loud – what better sermon could there possibly be? He said exactly what I wanted to say to Mia. I love that man.

All in all, I enjoyed reading this. It didn’t grab me as strongly as I had hoped, but I did enjoy reading their slow budding love and I must admit the repetitive misunderstanding between Mia and Garrett hooked me.

As the setting suggest, the writing is rather formal which is reminiscent of Classic literature, but it’s not so arcane, it’s simple enough to get through.
If you are up for light-hearted, classic-ish romance book, you might enjoy this.

I’ll give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Will You Remember Me? by Amanda Prowse

21570571This book emotionally shattered me; it left me in a complete sobbing mess, I don’t even know how many tears I shed. It’s so sad, poignant, yet amazingly beautiful.

This is a heart-wrenching story of Poppy Day, a wife of Martin and a mother of Peg and Max being diagnosed terminal breast cancer and then trying to live to the fullest, struggling with her sorrow and angst over having to leave the man whom she loves more than anyone else and her kids who she would never trade for the world.

I picked up this book not knowing this is the sixth book in the ‘No Greater Love’ series thus I didn’t get fully invested in the story or the characters until I reached almost halfway through the book.

There were scenes that pulled at my heartstrings here and there in the first half, but the enormity of the grim reality that awaits Poppy didn’t sink in on me as much as I would have liked.

I think I can attributed it to this book being a part of the series; all the characterizations and story-settings must have been done in the previous books, I don’t think there are a lot of explanations on the character dynamics thus it actually took me a while to piece together who and who are connected and their character backgrounds.

Then there came Martin’s outburst; this scene struck me so hard to the core. 

His broke down comes when he finds the thing that’s very important to him taken away from his and Poppy’s special place. He buckles down on his knees and then starts crying… his words, the streak of words that’s coming from his mouth just got me all welled up.

From then, the whole story starts exuding the grim and grave atmosphere as Poppy and Martin try to prepare themselves for the aftermath that will come after Poppy is gone.
At that point, I started to avoid reading this book out in public, which I often do as a bookworm. However, anticipating how sad and heartrending this story was going to be, I just couldn’t. Being a sucker for tear-jerker stories, I didn’t want anyone to see me welling up.

I gobbled down the latter half in two-sittings. It was such a page-turner, I literally couldn’t put it down.
I particularly infuriated and gritted my teeth when I found out there is SOMETHING happening between two characters at Poppy and Martin’s wedding party of all places. I just didn’t see it coming at all thus it hit me like a sledgehammer. I just couldn’t process what I just read.

The ensuing scenes hit me so hard in the feels; it evoked my emotions much more than I thought it would.
I particularly found it really poignant and sad that Poppy has to leave behind their loved ones as young as 32 years old. Her declining health and physical and emotional exhaustion were accurately narrated and it hurt me so bad.

The last several chapters just broke me; the dialogues, the letters, and the obituary.
I just couldn’t hold back my tears, I let it streak down my cheeks. I don’t even remember when was the last time I cried so hard over a book.

I felt this book rather personal from my experience of having lost my father to terminal cancer.
I saw his system shutting down right in front of my eyes; quietly slipping into a coma with his breast rising and falling.
I saw how slow and sluggish his every single movement became as his health deteriorated.
I feel like this book has given me an insight into what could have been his emotional process, having to face death leaving his family and friends behind.

Such emotions that I had from putting myself in Poppy and Martin’s shoes kept washing over me like tidal waves even after I closed the book. If anything, they got stronger now that I saw how it ends.

Personally, I am not 100% happy with the ending. I didn’t like the two (that I mentioned earlier) being together. I guess that’s the only issue that I have about this book.

‘Warning: you will need tissues!’

A warning from the back cover. How well put it is. You’ll definitely need tissues.
A LOT.